COVID-19 in Plain Language: Why are Schools Closed?

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Adapted in English by Valérie Harnois

As part of a series of SCOOP! information capsules on COVID-19, today we address school closures. Currently, half of the students across the world are deprived of their usual education because they do not have access to their school. But why this decision? What does it mean for teenagers who must stay home? SCOOP! has the answers in this video.


Closures… Here and Beyond

According to UNESCO, more than 850 million students across the world do not have access to their school anymore. This represents roughly half of the students across the world. 

«The current situation imposes immense challenges for countries to be able to provide uninterrupted learning for all children and youth in an equitable manner. We are stepping up on our global response by creating a coalition to ensure a fast and coordinated response. Beyond meeting immediate needs, this effort is an opportunity to rethink education, scale-up distance learning and make education systems more resilient, open and innovative, » says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

Source : Unesco, March 18, 2020

In Alberta, as of March 20, 2020, classes are cancelled for the rest of the year. It is the same for New York City in the United States. The province of Ontario has suspended ministry exams and other announcements will follow in the next few days. In Québec, the government has announced on March 22, 2020 that schools will remain closed at least until May 1st and has cancelled the ministry exams as well. France, who has also closed schools (for three weeks) and plans to broadcast lessons for students through television.

As the situation evolves quickly, so do the decisions and measures put in place. 


Why Close Schools?

Obviously, schools are closed to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. School environments are conductive to the transmission of the virus because of the proximity of students. Moreover, it is not always easy to ensure that good hygiene practices are followed in environments where hundreds and sometimes thousands of students are in the same building. Even if children are not particularly at risk if they contract the COVID-19 virus, the main issue is the transmission of the virus to other, older, more at risk people. The solution is therefore to close all schools to avoid a significant increase in the number of cases. Other than schools, movie theatres, fitness clubs, bars, sugar shacks, malls and all non-essential business have been closed to reduce the transmission of the virus to a minimum. 


What Do Students Do at Home?

The first two weeks are technically vacations for students. No guidelines were given maintain pedagogical activities. After those two weeks, some suggestions will be transmitted to parents so that students can keep on learning. Learning from home is a great solution in the current situation. However, some issues may complicate this situation. Not all students have the availability of technological equipment to work from home, some students have special needs that require support from professionals, not all parents are available or capable of helping their children with this new form of learning, etc. The government is currently looking to put in place services for special needs students but has not elaborated on this idea. If schools were to remain closed for the rest of the year, teachers would then decide, with the work students have already done, if students move to the next grade or repeat the grade. 

Source: MEES, March 22, 20202 


Do Parents Stay at Home Too?

Children who stay home need parents who stay at home too. In times of crisis, telework, which means working from home, is the solutions for many businesses. For one, isolation is recommended to reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19. Also, children need adult supervision. Parents who work in essential services (grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, transport, etc.) must still go to work every day. Day care services have been opened for children of some of these essential workers. You can find the list of Québec essential services here. If one of the parents does not work in one of those services, they must stay home with the children and work from home. If working from home is impossible, they can temporarily stop working and receive some money from the government of Canada through the unemployment program. 


Quiz Time! 

To verify students’ comprehension of the concept, click on this link to access the quiz. Then click on « Play live ». You will have access to a few parameters to configure the quiz. Once you have configured it, click on the purple button « Jeu d’hôte ». This will display the code students need to access the quiz. Students go to joinmyquiz.com and enter the unique code that you have given them. When all the players are connected, press « Début ». 

Enjoy the quiz!

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